Monday, August 15, 2022

Music Week

August archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 38520 [38474] rated (+46), 60 [77] unrated (-17).

I wrote a fairly substantial Speaking of Which last week, posting it on Sunday. I added another link and comment on China/Taiwan today, prompted by mail from Crocodile Chuck. War gaming is not my thing, but every scenario I've been able to imagine is bad to worse for everyone involved. Of course, that was also true for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but the dangers of China invading Taiwan are probably an order of magnitude greater. Chuck is so worried by Biden's complicity-verging-on-taunting that he's feeling nostalgic for Trump, but he's in Australia, so would escape many of the horrors another Trump term would entail. I also think he underappreciates how unstable Trump is, especially if his hand-picked cronies decide to challenge his manhood.

Made a sizable dent in the unrated albums list this week. The records I picked up here were mostly filed in the cases I originally set up when we moved here in 1999. 17 of the remaining 60 are new promos, so I know where they are, and I'll pick them up routinely over the next few weeks (11 are still advances). The others are going to prove harder to find, but a big chunk were 2006-08 promos I never bothered with, so they may be hiding out together. (In any case, I probably had good reason for ignoring them.) Then there are a couple large boxes. I graded the Sinatra this week based on past grades (plus streaming the one I missed).

New records reviewed this week:

Kyle Aho: Rituals (2021 [2022], OA2): Pianist, some electric keyboards, teaches at Missouri State, second album as leader plus some side credits, most songs have words from various literary sources, Christin Bohrisch sings, Randy Hamm plays sax and flute, band also includes trumpet, cello, bass, and drums. B [cd] [08-19]

Quentin Baxter Quintet: Art Moves Jazz (2022, BME): Drummer, recorded this in South Carolina, has a couple albums plus a group called Ranky Tanky. Hard bop quintet with trumpet (Charlton Singleton), tenor sax (Mark Starbank, piano, and bass, plus a couple guest spots. Opens and closes with Monk, in between has an original suite, three Jimmy Heath pieces, one by Robert Watson. B+(*) [cd] [08-12]

Bobby Bradford & Friends: Jackie Robinson: Stealing Home (2018 [2022], Cryptogramophone): Cornet player, born 1934, moved to Los Angeles in 1953, got a commission to write a piece honoring Robinson's centennial. Friends include saxophonists Vinny Golia and Chuck Manning, William Roper (tuba/euphonium and spoken vocals), plus piano, bass, and drums. B+(**) [bc]

Raymond Byron: Bond Wire Cur (2021 [2022], ESP-Disk): Last name Raposa, died at 41 a month after this came out, born in Indiana, grew up in California, started in Castanets c. 2005, played on records with Sufjan Stevens and Chris Schlarb. Label calls this "weird rock," although I'd lean more toward "weird folk." Back cover lists 10 more names as "featuring," but this feels pretty solo. B+(***) [lp]

Willi Carlisle: Peculiar, Missouri (2022, Free Dirt): Folksinger from the Ozarks, earned his credentials the new-fashioned way, with a BA in Writing and Performance Studies and a MFA in Poetry, plus two self-released albums before moving up to a named label. B+(***) [sp]

Cheekface: Too Much to Ask (2022, self=released): Indie g-b-d band from Los Angeles, third album, singer Greg Katz is clear enough you get all the jokes, and they are legion -- isn't it about time for a Dead Milkmen revival? Single is presumably "We Need a Bigger Dumpster." A- [sp]

Lindsay Clark: Carpe Noctem (2022, Audio Sport): Folkie singer-songwriter, based in Portland, fifth album since 2009, title translates as "seize the night." She doesn't. B [sp]

Avishai Cohen Trio: Shifting Sands (2021 [2022], Naïve): Israeli bassist, based in New York, close to 20 albums since 1998. Trio with Elchin Shirinov (piano) and Roni Kaspi (drums), playing originals plus one trad piece. B+(**) [sp]

King Princess: Hold On Baby (2022, Zelig/Columbia): Pop singer-songwriter Mikaela Mullaney Straus, identifies non-binary, second album. B+(**)

Lauv: All 4 Nothing (2022, Virgin): American pop singer-songwriter Ari Leff, debut a middling hit (16), second album. Catchy in a rather unassuming way. B+(*) [sp]

Lil Silva: Yesterday Is Heavy (2022, Nowhere): British dj/producer, first album after 12 years of singles and side credits. Mixes the pop up front, then goes on a long meander. B+(*) [sp]

Meridian Brothers: Meridian Brothers & El Grupo Renacimento (2022, Ansonia): Colombian group, led by Elbis Alvarez since 2006, not sure whether you'd label them salsa or cumbia, but the reference here is to 1970s salsa dura, aided by hypothetical collaborators from the era. B+(**) [sp]

Kyle Motl: Hydra Nightingale (2019-21 [2022], Infrequent Seams): Bassist, more than a dozen credits since 2015, takes this one solo, with one original piece, four more from composers I don't recognize, one of those augmented with spoken word snatches, mostly from Ronald Reagan not really explaining the economy. B+(***) [cd]

Tami Neilson: Kingmaker (2022, Outside Music): Country singer-songwriter, born in Canada but based in Auckland, New Zealand; fifth album, has done rockabilly and Patsy Cline, spreads this out a bit more, but still snags a duet with Willie Nelson. Ends strong. B+(***) [sp]

Ben Patterson: The Way of the Groove (2022, Origin): Trombone player, second album, background in USAF Airmen of Note, original pieces with guitar (Shawn Purcell), keyboards, bass, and drums, plus tenor sax (Luis Hernandez) on 4/10 tracks. B [cd] [08-19]

Pussy Riot: Matriarchy Now (2022, Neon Gold, EP): Per Wikipedia, "a Russian feminist protest and performance art group," with "a membership of approximately 11 women," although I suspect that is variable and erratic. The long article identifies various download releases, but doesn't attempt a discography. Discogs lists three albums and six singles/EPs (but not this one, a "mixtape" of 7 songs, 19:11). No trademark punk here. Starts light pop, ends up with something like a march, most arresting song goes "I want to hear 'fuck you'." Whatever they are, they're certainly not part of Putin's war machine. B+(*)

RedGreenBlue: The End and the Beginning (2018 [2022], Astral Spirits): Chicago trio -- Paul Giallorenzo (synthesizer, pump organ, electronics), Charlie Kirchen (bass), Ryan Packard (drums, electronics) -- plus Ben Lamar Gay (cornet, electronics) on the second side ("The End"). The cornet helps. B+(*) [bc]

Mark Rubin (Jew of Oklahoma): The Triumph of Assimilation (2021, Rubinchik): Mostly hillbilly banjo tunes framing loose translations of Yiddish poems. This can get a bit heavy (e.g., the closer "Spin the Dreidel"). Remarkable, but I'd appreciate a bit more humor, as in "Down South Kosher." B+(**) [bc]

Charlton Singleton: Crossroads (2022, BME): Trumpet player from South Carolina, second album a decade after his debut, plays in Ranky Tanky with most of Quentin Baxter's quintet, not only steps out front here but brought his own compositions. B+(**) [cd] [08-12]

Josh Sinton: Steve Lacy's Book of Practitioners, Vol. 1 "H" (2021-22 [2022], FIP): Solo baritone sax, working his way through six Lacy compositions. Sinton's quartet Ideal Bread released three albums of Lacy compositions (2008-14, the latter 2-CD). Obvious appeal limits due to tricky music and instrument, but this is serious stuff. B+(**) [cd] [08-12]

Trio Xolo: In Flower, in Song (2019 [2022], 577): Avant sax trio, no one I've ever heard of before: Zachary Swanson (bass, also the composer), Derrick Michaels (tenor sax), Dalius Naujo (drums). Seems like there are dozens of comparable records, but this one kept growing on me. A- [cd] [08-19]

Chris Walden: Missa Iubileum Aureum (Golden Jubilee Jazz Mass) (2022, Origin): Composer, big band arranger, has done a lot of soundtracks, German-born, based in Los Angeles. Played by LMR Jazz Orchestra, with St. Dominic's Schola Cantorum and featured vocalists Tierney Sutton & Kurt Elling. C- [cd] [08-19]

Neil Young + Promise of the Real: Noise & Flowers (2019 [2022], Reprise): Band formed by Willie Nelson's son Lucas in 2010, has recorded on its own through 2021, backed Young on two studio albums, a soundtrack, and a live album 2015-18, tagged along for this 2019 tour of Europe, playing Young's standard songbook. Rocks hard, sound so-so, nothing you haven't heard before. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Albert Ayler Quintet: At Slugs' Salloon 1966 Revisited (1966 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): Tenor saxophonist, quintet set with brother Donald Ayler (trumpet), Michael Samson (violin), Lewis Worrell (bass), and Ronald Shannon Jackson (drums). This set has been kicking around a long time. It's always struck me as strained but not quite to the breaking point. B+(*) [bc]

Old music:

Bad Brains: Bad Brains (1982, ROIR): DC hardcore punk band, first album, gimmick was that they were rastafaris and peppered their thrash metal with reggae nods, but nothing you can skank to. B+(**) [sp]

Bad Brains: Rock for Light (1983, PVC): Second album, a bit slicker I suppose, but is that a plus? B [sp]

Bob Brookmeyer: Back Again (1978 [1990], Gazell): Valve trombonist (1929-2011), has a reputation as an arranger, so his records tend to be overly thought out. But this quintet didn't need much direction to satisfy him: Thad Jones (flugelhorn/cornet), Jimmy Rowles (piano), George Mraz (bass), Mel Lewis (drums). A- [cd]

Desole: A Story to Tell (2006, Abacus): Indie band from Arizona, accents optional but not on cover. As best I recall, I got a promo at the time and never found time to play it. Doesn't look like they ever recorded anything else, so now it's just a checklist item. Not awful, but a bit fancy/artsy, aimed at arenas they never came close to. B

Julie Dexter/Khari Simmons: Moon Bossa (2006 [2007], Brash Music): British soul/jazz singer, moved to Atlanta in 1999, four albums 2002-11, Simmons is an Atlanta-based producer, credits lacking but figure him for the easy groove, which only occasionally reminds one of Brazil. [ex-CD] B+(*)

Disques Vogue: In Paris Highlights (1948-56 [1995], RCA): French jazz label, established 1947 by Léon Cabat and Charles Delaunay, appears to be unrelated to the American label Vogue Records, but a British offshoot was founded in 1951, initially named Vogue Records, later Vocalion. The labels were bought up by BMG, RCA Victor, and eventually Sony Music. RCA did a series of of ten CD reissues c. 1995, for which this is a sampler. The artists are famous Americans who passed through Paris, some live, others studio. This picks out 20 tracks, some nice ones, but the series is rather mixed. B+(**) [cd]

Peggy Duquesnel: Summertime Lullaby (2009 [2010], Joyspring Music): Standards singer, plays piano, Discogs lists three albums (including a 2-CD Xmas), website links to a new album, Piano for My Soul (filed under "New Age/Meditation"; Amazon product description says it's her 16th self-released album). Very serviceable, especially her piano. [ex-CD] B

Elmore James: The Classic Early Recordings 1951-1956 (1951-56 [1994], Virgin, 3CD): Major blues figure, born in Mississippi, eventually made his way to Chicago, hit on his signature guitar riff on his first single ("Dust My Broom"), returned to it often, died at 45 in 1963, leaving 12 years of records, nearly all superb, although Rhino's Robert Palmer-selected 1993 compilation (The Sky Is Falling: The History of Elmore James) is possibly all you need. These early cuts are also available in less redundant 1-CD packages -- Let's Cut It: The Very Best of Elmore James (1991) and Blues Kingpins (2003) are two I own and recommend highly -- but when the trick is this good redundancy isn't much of a complaint. His later compilations, like Shake Your Money Maker: The Best of the Fire Sessions (2001) and King of the Slide Guitar (1992) are even better, and The Complete Fire and Enjoy Recordings (3-CD, from 1995) doesn't suffer either. A-

Rafael Karlen: The Sweetness of Things Half Remembered (2014, Pinnacles Music): Australian tenor saxophonist, first album, only a couple more since. Backed by piano (Steve Newcomb) and string quartet. It is gently paced and rather lovely, although the strings are still a bit arch for my taste. B+(***) [bc]

Kent Kessler: Bull Fiddle (2001 [2002], Okka Disk): Chicago bassist, probably best known in the Vandermark 5 (1997-2010), but he's played in number of more/less related groups, including several with Rodrigo Amado. This is his only album as sole leader, but he's joined by Michael Zerang (drums) on 4/12 tracks. B+(**) [cd]

Ken Peplowski/Howard Alden: Concord Duo Series: Volume Three (1992 [1993], Concord): Discogs decided the title was the Ken Peplowski & Howard Alden, but spine and elsewhere use the slash. My title is on the front over as a logo, but not on the spine. Back cover adds "Recorded Live at Maybeck Recital Hall." In the label's prime, Concord rounded up every notable mainstream pianist in the country to do a solo set there. Their 1992-96 Duo Series ran out at 10, mostly musicians whose careers were revived by the label. Peplowski plays clarinet and tenor sax, Alden guitar. Both lean toward swing era standards, but here they look back to Jelly Roll Morton and Bix Beiderbecke, and into the bop era with Charlie Parker and Lennie Tristano. B+(***) [cd]

Maurice Peress: The Birth of Rhapsody in Blue: Paul Whiteman's Historic Aeolian Hall Concert of 1924 (1996, Musicmasters): His name seems like a joke on first acquaintance these days, but Paul Whiteman (1890-1967) was the biggest jazz band leader in 1920s, with sales of nearly two million for a 1920 release, and numerous other hits: he had much more to do with the 1920s being called "the jazz age" than Armstrong or Ellington. He employed some of the best-known white jazz musicians of the age (Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Jack Teagarden, Bunny Berrigan, many more), as well as singers like Bing Crosby and Mildred Bailey (also, crossing the color line, he backed Paul Robeson on his classic "Ol' Man River"). One of his biggest coups was staging the 1924 debut of George Gershwin's jazz-influenced "Rhapsody in Blue." Peress (1930-2017), who started in New York under Leonard Bernstein and went on to conduct many orhestras, as well as to write Dvorak to Duke Ellington: A Conductor Explores America's Music and Its African American Roots, reconstructed Whiteman's concert and conducted, featuring Ivan Davis and Dick Hyman on piano. I recall Gary Giddins praising this in his campaign to get more jazz played by classical repertory orchestras. B+(***) [cd]

Bobby Previte: Empty Suits (1990, Gramavision): Drummer, albums since 1986, also guitar, keyboard, percussion, electronics, and vocals here. Group is a quintet with trombone (Robin Eubanks), guitar, keyboards, and bass, plus a half dozen guests, most famously Elliott Sharp (guitar) and Marty Ehrlich (alto sax). Music has elements of fusion but is otherwise hard to pin down. B+(**) [cd]

Maddy Prior/June Tabor [Silly Sisters]: No More to the Dance (1988, Shanachie): English folk singers, not sisters, both born in 1947, Maddy the better known due to her fronting of Steeleye Span. June's first album was a 1976 duo with Maddy called Silly Sisters, reunited here, the cover with both credits. Both have many solo albums and collaborations since the late 1970s. Very trad, not my thing, but nice together. [ex-CD] B+(*) [sp]

Raise Your Window: A Cajun Music Anthology Vol. 2: The Historic Victor/Bluebird Sessions 1928-1941 (1928-41 [1993], Country Music Foundation): Previous volume was called Le Gran Mamou, and covers the same years, with many of the same artists, but this is the one I happened to stumble on. Classic stuff, expertly selected and annotated. I'd be surprised if Vol. 1 isn't every bit as good. A- [cd]

Mark Rubin (Jew of Oklahoma): Southern Discomfort (2015, Rubinchik): "Oklahoma-born, Texas-reared, and now living in New Orleans," spent some time in Austin where he founded the bands Killbilly and Bad Livers (better known, he played upright bass and tuba). First album under this moniker. A- [sp]

Frank Sinatra: Capitol Records Concept Albums (1953-61 [2004], Capitol, 14CD): Growing up, I didn't care much for him as a singer, but always thought he was a terrific actor, and occasional songs from the 1960s charmed me. So I hardly knew anything before his founding of Reprise in 1961 until well after the fact. His early work divides into three neat eras: as a big band singer, especially with Tommy Dorsey (1940-42); a declining period with Columbia (1946-52); and his revival with Capitol (1953-61). A decade before Elvis, he was the nation's biggest teen dream. After Elvis, he was the very definition of adult music. Straddling those periods, he was the first major LP artist: while his "concept albums" fell short of the term as I knew it in the 1970s, each formed a coherent whole, while most other LPs dissoled into hits + filler. His voice was unique, smooth and precise, simply masterful. His bands ranged from perfunctory to bombastic, or often sunk into a morass of strings. I had merely sampled him when I picked this slim box up in a going-out-of-business sale, figuring it would be nice to own them all, but more often than not I went to streaming sources to plug the holes. When I finally got to this, I had heard all but the final album (Point of No Return), with its perfect vocals adorning a maudlin string backup. Individual album grades follow. B+(***) [cd]

  • Swing Easy! (1954, EP): A
  • Songs for Young Lovers (1954, EP): B+(***)
  • In the Wee Small Hours (1954-55 [1955]): A-
  • Songs for Swingin' Lovers (1956): A+
  • Close to You (1956 [1957]): B+(*)
  • A Swingin' Affair! (1956): B+
  • Where Are You? (1957): B
  • Come Fly With Me (1957 [1958]): B+(**)
  • Sings for Only the Lonely (1958): B
  • Come Dance With Me! (1958 [1959]): B+(***)
  • No One Cares (1959): B-
  • Nice 'N' Easy (1960): B+(***)
  • Sinatra's Swingin' Session (1960 [1961]): A-
  • Come Swing With Me! (1961): A-
  • Point of No Return (1961 [1962]): B+(*)

Hank Snow: 16 Top Tracks (1961-65 [1988], RCA): Part of RCA's "Diamond Series": at least 25 single-artist comps with 16 tracks each, all released in 1988 with stock artwork proclaiming "Digitally remastered from original recordings." I only count 6 country artists (Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Jim Reeves, and Snow), mixed in with 1930s jazz (Benny Goodman, Fats Waller), early rock (Elvis Presley, Duane Eddy) and soul (Sam Cooke, Eartha Kitt), plus some outliers (Mario Lanza, Jose Feliciano). I loved Snow's 1985 duo with Willie Nelson (Brand on My Heart, so this is probably the first collection of his I bought. Turns out it was assembled from early 1960s albums, two of which were covers of other people's hits, so the only Snow smash here is "I've Been Everywhere." The next Snow comp I bought picked up his early (1949-56) hits: I'm Movin' On and Other Great Country Hits, which came out in 1990. Highly recommended, but 1997's The Essential Hank Snow sweeps the field, from 1950-73. Best discovery here is "The Last Ride," but he also does pretty credible takes on others like Don Gibson and Dave Dudley and Johnny Horton. B+(***) [cd]

Songs From Chippy (1994, Hollywood): Chippy was a musical theatrical play, written by Jo Harvey Allen and Terry Allen, set in West Texas in the 1930s. The Songs were recorded in Joe Ely's home studio, the various artists including the Allens, Ely, Butch Hancock, Robert Earl Keen, Wayne Hancock, and Jo Carol Pierce. These artists probably have a dozen A-list albums between them (more if you include Pierce's ex-husband, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, who came out of the same Lubbock plain). Lots of prime songs here, especially Ely's trademark groove. A couple I even recognize from elsewhere (like Wayne Hancock's "Thunderstorms & Neon Signs" and Pierce's "I Blame God"). A- [cd]

Stompin' Western Swing: Roots of Rock 'n' Roll Vol. 2 (1936-41 [1996], President): British label, founded 1957, started in mainstream pop, had some success with disco imports in the 1970s. This Roots of Rock 'n' Roll series ran to 7 volumes, given a free hand by the EU's 50-year copyright limit to pick essential records. It started with Vol. 1: Big Band, Blues & Boogie, which just from reading the song list I'd be hard pressed to improve on (leads off with "Flyin' Home," "The Honeydripper," "Walk 'Em," "Minnie the Moocher," eventually hitting "Five Guys Named Moe," before ending with Big Bill Broonzy and Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup). This one has a bit less to pick from, but hits everyone you'd expect, from Milton Brown, Hank Penny, Bob Wills, and Cliff Bruner through the Modern Mountaineers and the Blue Ridge Playboys. There are comparable western swing sets, but few that end this strong. A- [cd]

A Taste of Soca (1993-94 [1994], Ice): A contraction of "soul of calypso," first defined by Lord Shorty in 1975, seems like a parallel to the development of reggae to dancehall and ragga, the rhythm harder and the words cruder than with calypso. Eddy Grant founded the label to compile calypso classics, but went on to release a fair amount of contemporary soca, of which this is a sampler. I'm a sucker for the beats, but still prefer the wordsmiths, which here include Duke as well as Sparrow. B+(***) [cd]

Abdul Wadud/Leroy Jenkins: Straight Ahead/Free at Last (1979, RED): Cellist (1947-2022), born Ronald DeVaughn, father of r&b singer Raheem DeVaughn, played in Black Unity Trio (1971), several albums each with Julius Hemphill and Arthur Blythe. Duo here with the violinist, with two side-long pieces written by Jenkins. B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Mike Clark/Leon Lee Dorsey Featuring Mike LeDonne: Blues on Top (Jazz Avenue 1) [08-12]
  • Jeff Coffin: Between Dreaming and Joy (Ear Up) [08-15]
  • Billy Drummond and Freedom of Ideas: Valse Sinistre (Cellar) [08-05]
  • Gordon Grdina's Nomad Trio: Boiling Point (Astral Spirits)
  • Gordon Grdina/Mark Helias/Matthew Shipp: Pathways (Attaboygirl)
  • Michael Hackett/Tim Coffman Sextet: Western Skies (Summit)
  • Darren Litzie: My Horizon (Summit)
  • Brian Lynch and Spheres of Influence: Songbook Vol. 2: Dance the Way U Want To (Holistic MusicWorks) [08-15]
  • Gonzalo Rubalcaba/Aymée Nuviola: Live in Marciac (5 Passion) [06-29]
  • Miguel Zenón: Música De Las Américas (Miel Music) [08-26]

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